Spain to soon start vaccinating children aged 5-11

Spain will begin vaccinating children aged between 5-11 from Wednesday, 15 December. [Shutterstock/Volurol]

Spain’s Public Health Commission and health representatives of the country’s 17 regions on Tuesday approved the new anti-COVID-19 strategy, allowing for the vaccination of children aged 5 to 11, in a new campaign scheduled to start next week.

Following the European Medicines Agency’s proposal to vaccinate children below 12 with Pfizer vaccines, the health ministry decided to implement a coordinated vaccination agenda for minors, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.

The first batch of anti-COVID-19 “paediatric vaccines” designed for children is expected to arrive in Spain on 13 December, and vaccinations could start on 15 December, health sources told EFE.

Each of the two Pfizer jabs contains one-third of the total dose for adults. Children with weakened immune systems – with specific pathologies, transplants or cancer patients – will be included in the first “priority group”. The second jab will be administered almost two months after the first.

At the request of the country’s Vaccines Committee, the Public Health Commission, which brings together experts from the health ministry and the regions, opted for an eight-week interval to have all children aged 5 to 11 years vaccinated in a short space of time with at least one dose.

In Spain, about 3.3 million children in that age group are eligible to receive the COVID-19 jab. So far, children under 12 years of age have the highest cumulative incidence of COVID-19.

The Health Commission hopes to reduce the burden of the disease in children and the transmission in the family environment, schools and the community.

Health experts stressed the importance of protecting children from the acute form of the disease, possible future illnesses, and persistent COVID-syndrome or ‘long COVID’.

Meanwhile, a Spanish DNA-based vaccine developed by Hipra-pharma has achieved 100% efficacy in humanised mouse models. It could be approved for human use in the European Union in the second half of 2022.

According to Hipra, the new vaccine will be cheaper, with a higher level of protection and easier to store compared to current mRNA vaccines by Pfizer or Moderna. It will also be effective against the Omicron variant, the Spanish public radio (RNE) reported on Tuesday.

Sources in the state-owned Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), where the new vaccine is being tested, stressed that “if everything goes well”, it could be used in humans before the end of 2022.

Clinical tests gave a “100% protection” against infections with the original COVID-19 Wuhan strain.

The vaccine is now entering the second phase of the study with the recruitment of 1,075 volunteers to verify the safety and efficacy of the drug as a booster dose, said Laura Ferrer, Hipra’s senior manager of human health R&D, quoted by Spanish online media.

(Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)

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